Day 190 (July 9): Proclaim God and all of His creation, proclaim who He is and the wonders He has done, a review of Israel in Egypt, the Israelites still strayed from God despite all of His guidance and aid

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Psalms 105-106

Questions & Observations

O. (Psalm 105:1-4): I love the beginning of this Psalm.  This was written for the Israelites, but I think we could apply the first two verses to our lives, but more of as a collective charge.  We have talked way back to where we should use discretion when proclaiming God.  If you shout out today how wondrous God is, chances are you’ll get some weird looks.  (If you have enough confidence to shout His praises, more power to you.  Go for it.  I would stop to listen!) But, if you testify in the right place at the right time, it can work.  Or, if this could be more a collective charge where this first two verses are addressing Christians as a whole to have God on our mind, act godly and proclaim Him whenever possible, we can apply it to today.  Verses 3 and 4 are right on!  The more I search for God and request His thoughts, the easier my life is.

O. (105:7): We have read a lot about that.  Those folks should have woken up after all the destruction God did and then rebuilding.

O. (105:8-45): The rest of this Psalm is about how God never faltered on His covenant with Abraham.  Despite all the anger and humiliation God had to endure, He still put up with them.  He kept the covenant.

Q. (106): This Psalm takes us, and the original authors of this passage, way back through lots of generations — 700 or so years worth.  But, they tell it like it just happened yesterday.  And now, we are reading it 2700 years later (I think my estimations are correct).  It’s just amazing how God and the Bible have lasted through all of these years!  Just an off-the-wall curious question: I would assume that the Bible is the oldest book of any religion.  Any idea how far other religions date back?

A. When it comes to monotheism, you would be correct, the OT is the “oldest” major religious text.  But there’s a reason: both of the other major monotheistic religions both spring from Judaism — Christianity (circa 30 AD) and Islam (622 AD).  But the oldest still practiced religion is Hinduism, which is a polytheistic (many gods) and pantheistic (everything is god) religion, the primary faith of the Indian sub-continent.  Though there is no official “founder” for Hinduism as Judaism associates with Abraham, an ancient form of the religion in the Indus river valley can be basically traced back nearly 5000 years (to circa 3000 BC), so it gets the title of “oldest still practiced religion.”  Among their sacred texts are what are called the Four Vedas (truths), and though it is generally accepted that their final composition/editing occurred around 600 BC, they are much older than that, and probably date to an older period than the OT.

Now you can make the argument that forms of spirit worship, the worship of nature, and other such forms of what we would call “paganism” can go back many more thousands of years to primitive mankind even tens of thousands of years ago, but there is no “direct” line from these religious positions to a modern form.

 

Major Monotheistic Religions:

Judaism (circa 2000 BC)

Zoroastrianism (circa 600 BC)

Christianity (circa 30 AD)

Islam (622 AD)

Sikhism (1469 AD)

Mormonism (1820s AD)

Baha’i (1844 AD)

 

Major Polytheistic Religions:

Hinduism (circa 3000 BC)

Shintoism (800 AD)

 

Major Agnostic Religions/Philosophies

Jainism (circa 900 BC)

Buddhism (circa 500 BC)

Daoism (also spelled Taoism, 400 BC)

Confucianism (circa 400 BC)

Day 68 (March 9): Vows to God are serious, victory over Midianites, dividing the spoils

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Numbers 30-31

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 30:1-16): So the Lord expected the Israelites to keep their promises to the Lord.  What kind of vows were they talking about?  The first verses say that men must always keep their word.  However, women and girls are subject to their father or husband’s acceptance of the vow.  Why the difference between men and women?  And, boys are not mentioned.  Do they follow under the first verses of men?

A. Basically, the rule here is that vows, of any sort, were not to be made rashly, and each person was responsible for vows they made.  The only two exceptions were both for women, who were subject to the authority of their fathers (if not married) or their husbands (if they were).  These men had the authority to overturn any vow that they, as the authority over the woman, would have a hand in fulfilling.  So basically, if you were a man, a boy, or a divorced woman, you had no one to blame for your foolish vows but yourself!  No one else would be able to take responsibility for them.

Q. (31:6): Phinehas, son of Eleazar has been mentioned several times.  Should we discuss him at all?

A. Eleazar was Aaron’s son, who took over the role of High Priest when Aaron died back in chapter 20.  This makes Phinehas Aaron’s grandson, and the priest who was responsible for the killing of the man and woman who flaunted their sin in front of the Tabernacle in 25:7.  He thus becomes a person who has a great zeal for God’s holiness, and God rewards Him for this zeal.  He is mentioned again in Joshua, but this is his most prominent role.

Q. (31:9): Any idea where or when the gentleman’s rule started — the rule of fighting men, but leaving women and children unharmed?  31:17 does not make for a nice visual.

A. As far as I know, the idea of warfare being only among the men who are fighting it goes back for thousands of years.  Its the understood difference between soldiers and civilians.  Now sometimes this gets blurry, as in instances of a siege, where the entire intent is to starve out people who have blockaded themselves for protection, but generally the “rule” in question is the way that warfare has been conducted for some time.

Verse 17 is indeed pretty brutal, but there were two important reasons for Moses’ command, though they don’t soften the blow much.  The women, rather than the male soldiers, were indeed the ones who brought about the plague at Peor, and therefore it would have been risky to let them live.  The death of the boys was done in order to prevent issues with inheritance in future generations of Israelites.  Moses is attempting to prevent non-Israelites from inheriting the Promised Land in future generations.

Q. (31:32): I know it’s not important, but I have no idea how they would have accurately counted that much livestock, and girls.

A. I have no idea how they did it either.  You should always consider numbers of this sort to be rough estimates.  Keep in mind, prior to these volumes being written down, they would have been passed down generation to generation orally.  That means that having rough numbers is a more manageable system then going into specifics.  It is also possible that the number became more “rough” as the story was handed down (i.e. originally the count was 36,588 cattle, but it became 36,000 over time).

Day 42 (Feb. 11): The Golden Calf, Moses pleas for Israel, Lord’s glory shines on Moses, Covenantx2

Exodus 32-34

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 32:1): The Israelites seem to be so impatient.  But, 40 days does seem like an eternity.  I guess with that many people, the unrest would spread rampantly.  But, I am surprised that Aaron caved so quickly.

A. Yea, this isn’t Aaron’s best moment.  He caves to the pressure quickly — some extra-biblical traditions say his friend was murdered or his family was held hostage, etc. — but there is no excuse for his sin.  Worse yet, he lies to Moses about it when Moses comes down: really, the calf formed itself.  Sure it did…

Q. (32:9-14): It seems like I always here that our Lord is exact, true and unwavering.  But we have seen several times where His chosen have pleaded with him to spare His people.  The conversation sounds like two old friends who confide in one another.  I always thought of God’s directions as final, “It’s my way or the highway.”  But, God makes exceptions.  Last Sunday, our minister talked about giving God some of your time — not just making a date for 15 minutes, saying “Hi, how are you?, the kids OK, and here’s my list of requests, gotta go, amen.”  He said to give him an hour, a half day, even a whole day and just walk with Him.  In these passages, Moses spend days with Him.  Our lives don’t really make room for such a long visit, but we should give him the time.  He is here to help us, counsel, listen and just talk to.  When we spend more time with something meaningless as TV than God, that has to hurt His feelings.  Rob, can you comment on God changing His mind and on how he has, to me, almost human emotions?

A. There is, as one might expect, a lot of discussion about whether God really changed His mind in the sense we are familiar with, but there are important things we can derive from this passage.  To me, God appears to test Moses as He tested Abraham, except this time, there was a whole nation in the balance.  God tells Moses, “go away so I can get angry and kill them,” but Moses is quick to speak up for his people.  They screwed up, Moses says, but its not in your character to wipe them out, you don’t really mean what you’re saying, right God?  It appears Moses was willing to be bold even to God in fighting for his people.  No wonder the writer proclaims Moses and God talked as friends!

Q. (Exodus 32:27-28): Moses just told God to spare the Israelites.  Then, he goes down from the mountain and commands the Levites to kill everyone.  They only killed 3,000.  Can you explain these two conflicting statements — the sparing and not killing everyone?

A. It appears that Moses and the Levites killed in order to re-establish order among the ranks and stop the madness.  That had to be done, or there would be no chance of making amends with God.  What God was suggesting was the wipe out the ENTIRE nation and start again with Moses.  So while Moses’ actions seems violent, it certainly was more desirable then losing the whole nation.

Q. (32:34): What is the Lord referring to when he says, “when I come to call the people to account, I will certainly hold them responsible for their sins.”

A. It appears to be directly tied to the plague that strikes the people in the next verse.

Q. (32:3): From earlier Exodus reading, it sounded like God wanted to reside among the Israelites when he was giving the particulars of the Ark and Tabernacle construction.  Now, he has changed his mind because of the Israelites actions?

A. Like the decision to destroy the nation, God will heed Moses’ pleading to not abandon His people and will travel with them.  Hang on for the end of the story: it’s really cool.

O. (33:16): LOVE THIS VERSE: Moses says, “For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”

Q. (33:21-23): We have talked about this before, but can you remind us of the differences between God talking to Abraham and to Moses.  God appeared as a traveling man to Abraham, but here God says he is too glorious to be seen.

A. Moses is asking for the full deal: he wants to see the full extent of who God is.  And God tells him, you’re asking too much for any person.  God chooses to reveal himself in different ways to different people — I’m thinking of Isaiah, Joel, and Ezekiel, among others — throughout His story, so it is clear that people do, in some form, see the Lord, but they do not see the full weight of who God is.  That is the implication to me about what would be “too much” for poor Moses to handle.  Still, Moses appears to be able to handle a lot of seeing most of God truly is — as close as any person ever has according to the text.  This is a big part of the reason that he is such a revered figure in Judaism, even bigger than Abraham.

Q. (34:7): I don’t understand “I forgive iniquity, rebellion and sin.  But I don’t not excuse the guilty.”

A. Actually, I think that this is a profound statement of God’s mercy and grace (what He desired to share with Moses about His nature).  I like the way that NIV renders it: “forgiving…rebellion and sin.  Yet, He does not leave the guilty unpunished.”  I think they “yet,” rather than the “but” of NLT, makes the message more clear: God is willing to forgive our sins, but the sins themselves often come with natural punishment that God does not prevent us from suffering.  As we talked about some days ago, it is often children who suffer the worst consequences for the sins of their parents, which is what the end of the verse talks about.  So in this profound statement, God is basically saying, “you and I can be reconciled” by Me forgiving you, but you must still deal with the consequences of your actions.  To me, this points to the reality of God’s grace, but also that God does not wink at sin and say, “oh well, boys will be boys” or whatever.  God takes our sins very seriously — mostly because of their deadly effect on us — even when He grants us forgiveness.

Day 35 (Feb. 4): Plagues of locusts, darkness, Egypt’s firstborn sons, Passover, Israelites prepare to leave after 430 years in Egypt, Passover requirements

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Exodus 10-12

Questions & Observations

Q. Rob, in one of your answers yesterday, you said, the Bible “does not shy away from saying that there are no other spiritual powers that can be used, only that God is superior to them.”  Does the Bible say other deities are real or are you just saying that there are spiritual powers out there and they elude to that they come from Satan?

A. The Bible does not answer that question directly.  Instead, it orders that God alone should be worshipped, and distinguishes between the true God and false gods.  Whether these “false gods” exist could, I think, be interpreted either way.

As you enter the New Testament, I think that you move more and more towards the concept of there is only one God (i.e. all other gods are false), but it certainly does not deny the existence of other spiritual powers such as demons.

Q. (Exodus 10:1): I said that I’m not going to question God so much, but it’s so hard not to.  I’ll go on the offensive rather than defensive.  Here, it sounds like God caused all this devastation to show His people His power and that they should follow Him.  And He is there to protect them and fight their battles.  Maybe it’s showing them more of what is coming their way — they will need to rely on God to survive their journey?  Also, the Egyptians, at least the Pharaoh, did not follow God, so maybe God just decided to play with them for a little bit.  He’s giving the Egyptians payback?

A. God appears to be avenging the suffering that Egypt has inflicted on their Israelite slaves, which are His chosen ones.  In the process, He is teaching the Israelite people that He is faithful and should follow Him.

Q. (10:4): Is there any significance with locusts in the Bible?  Here a plague, but also Jesus eats them in the wilderness, right?

A. John the Baptist ate locusts in the wilderness.  Locusts were (and are) a real problem in the world, and one of the most real examples of a plague on agrarian society.  If you are dependent on crops, and the locusts eat all those crops, you’re in big trouble.  So locusts are seen as a plague of judgment (here, in Joel, and in Revelation, there may be others), sometimes against God’s enemies, and (in Joel) against God’s people.

Q. (10:14-15): How could the Egyptians survive?  There is nothing left.  Pharaoh would have to be so frustrated that God kept hardening his heart.  He has no food left!  God seems to be having fun with Pharaoh.  In our small group, we had a discussion about God does things to bring glory to Himself.  I had never heard this before.  I thought it was kind of egotistical.  But, here we see it plain as day that God is deeply demonstrating his power to the Egyptians to show the Egyptians how glorious He is.  I guess my question here, is how could the Egyptians want to continue this torture?

A. It’s clear from the story that even those closest to Pharaoh were begging him to get rid of the problem people, but they ultimately, had to submit to whatever their king decided.  Since the Egyptians were seen as such an enemy of the Israelites, it appears that their survival was not a priority of the story.  I don’t honestly have a better idea of how to answer the question than that.

Q. (10:16-17):  Again, we see repetition after repetition in these plagues.  We saw it in Job, we saw it when Abraham asked God to spare the righteous in Sodom.  I guess it’s all for emphasis, to make sure we understand God’s point.  On a personal note, I think about how many times something has to happen before I change it for the better and make it a habit.  I keep drinking coffee even though it makes me on edge and sluggish the rest of the day.  I’m working on it.  There are numerous things in my life like that.  You?  I guess it’s the hard-headedness.  Has God hardened our hearts so it’s a real challenge to choose to follow God?

A. This appears to be a special circumstance, for this type of phrasing (hardening the heart) is not used again.  It appears that this story is meant to be unique.  One change that takes place in the midst of the story of Christianity in the NT is that the Spirit becomes a living presence in the heart of believers.  That presence of God in our hearts is one that always desires to bring us CLOSER to God, not to harden our stance away from Him.  So, I would say you as a Christian (rather than one who is counted an enemy of God) has anything to worry about from God hardening your heart against Him.

O. (11:4-6): I wonder how Moses felt to be the one warning about these plagues and giving God the “go” signal with his staff.  This was a guy who had run away from Egypt because he was afraid he would be killed for murdering an Egyptian, then he kind of hid as a shepherd. And finally, he begged God not to make him leader of the Israelites.  What a change for Moses!

Q. (12:5): I struggle with this because God asks for animals with no defects and that they be one year old.  What is the significance of this?  I thought his creations were equal.  I guess I’m thinking of man.  From what we have read, he does not give priority to those humans who are near perfect.  But, for sacrificial animals, the Lord wants the best?  I guess animals are different from humans in that regard?  As a vegan, the whole sacrifice thing is never going to be easy for me to swallow.  Pun intended!

A. The significance of the one-year-old animal without a defect is the sacrifice would be required on the part of the sacrificer.  You couldn’t give God just any old (or sick, or deformed) animal.  You had to provide an animal in its prime and not one you were going to get rid of anyway.  This goes back to giving God our best or “firstfruits”.

Q. (12:8): Why bread with no yeast?  Takes up less space for traveling?

A. Nope.  It’s ready sooner because you don’t have to wait for it to rise.

Q. (12:23): I never thought about the OT blood symbolism applying to Jesus dying on the cross.  Just as the blood allows God to spare the Israelites from the plague, Jesus blood shed spares us from eternal punishment.  Does this work for you, Rob?

A. Yes.  When John the Baptist speaks of Jesus as the Lamb of God in John 1, I suspect this is at least partially the image he had in mind.  The idea here is that the blood itself is what wards off the angel of death, an idea that Christians definitely came to connect with.

Q. (12:24): I guess this is speaking to us.  Christians are still supposed to observe the Passover?  I never have.  It has not been a requirement in the churches I have belonged to.

A. We are no longer under the Law, so we are not obligated to keep the Passover.  This does not mean we cannot participate in one or learn from it.  Something I have seen recently in the churches I have been a part of have connected with the idea that the Last Supper from the Gospels was, in fact, a Passover meal.  Jesus took the opportunity do use the unleavened bread (which, for reference, is kind of like pita bread) and wine that were already a part of the ceremony to talk about the new way God was doing to do things through Jesus (i.e. the new covenant).  So, while we don’t HAVE to keep the Passover, I think there is great value in understanding it, and maybe sharing in one at some point.

Q. (12:48): Sure glad I’m a woman!  Does the Passover law still apply — that all males who want to partake in it must be circumcised?

A. Ha!  For religious Jews such as Hassidic and Orthodox, I presume the answer is yes, but I am not certain.

Q.  (12:51): Leading the Israelites out of Egypt would be quite an undertaking for Moses.  With women and children, there were easily 2 million Israelites.  Moses didn’t have a microphone.  How could he communicate what they were to do so quickly?  Nothing is impossible with the Lord!

A. One of the things that the text will talk about after the journey to Sinai is the way that the different tribes moved with the Tabernacle.  Nope, no microphones, so I would imagine it was an incredibly difficult task: something God alone could bring the people through.